A particular type of gut microbiota-reactive immune cells, called IgA-producing B-cells, travels to the brain of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients during relapses, where they produce anti-inflammatory molecules, a study shows.
The underlying mechanisms of this event and these cells’ role in MS remain largely unclear, but these findings suggest that specific gut immune cells may help resolve disease relapses in MS. They also expand on the diverse subsets of immune cells that scientists say are likely involved in the disease, either by promoting or suppressing MS-associated processes.
The data also add to existing evidence supporting a link between gut microbiota and inflammatory responses in MS, and “opens up a whole new line of research,” Anne-Katrin Pröbstel, MD, the study’s first author and a former postdoctoral researcher at University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), said in a UCSF press release.
Of note, gut microbiota — a vast community of friendly bacteria, fungi, and viruses that colonize the gastrointestinal tract — helps to maintain a balanced gut function, protect against disease-causing organisms, and influence the host’s immune system and inflammatory responses.
The study, “Gut microbiota–specific IgA+ B cells traffic to the CNS in active multiple sclerosis,” was published in the journal Science Immunology.
A type of immune cell, B-cells produce specific immunoglobulins (Ig), or antibodies — molecules that bind to invasive microorganisms, helping to kill them.
B-cells that produce IgG, a type of antibody, are known to drive the abnormal immune attacks against myelin — the protective sheath that covers nerve fibers — and the neuroinflammation that leads to MS-associated neuronal death in the central nervous system (CNS), comprising the brain and spinal cord.
While MS treatments promoting mild B-cell depletion reduce inflammation in MS patients, those leading to a profound depletion of these cells result in disease exacerbation.
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